Inside Housing | The community taking on homelessness

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15 November 2016 7:30 am

The community taking on homelessness

Housing minister Gavin Barwell’s Croydon constituency has a homelessness crisis. Now members of the community are taking matters into their own hands to find a solution. Martin Hilditch reports

For use in Inside Housing, 18 November 2016

CATHY AT 50 200px

It is the wrong side of midnight and the A&E department at Croydon University Hospital is a picture of well-lit gloom.

A handful of patients sit on plastic chairs, silently contemplating the dramas that have brought them here in the depths of the night. Their peace is broken by the entry of a small group of men and women, all wearing identical blue cagoules that proclaim their arrival from the European End Street Homelessness Campaign in big letters on the back. It has been a disappointing night for the volunteers so far. They have been charged with engaging with homeless people on the streets of Croydon as part of a massive project that is the first step of a campaign to end rough sleeping in the London borough.

Thus far, they have traipsed around parks, alleyways and lock-ups, shining torches into dark corners like Croydon’s answer to the Scooby-Doo gang. Despite visiting many of the borough’s well-known rough sleeping ‘hotspots’, after a couple of hours they have little to show for their efforts beyond tired legs. They have popped into the A&E department for a comfort break, but it is about to provide them with a depressing insight into the realities of life on the streets.

Major campaign

Moments after walking through the doors, the group are approached by a young man with an amputated foot, who has come to A&E for treatment.

“I’m homeless,” he says. He is accompanied by a friend, who is also homeless, and has made his own trip to the hospital in recent weeks. “I had pneumonia,” he says. “I had three blood transfusions.”

I was genuinely shocked by some of the data – really, really shocked. It should be a wakeup call to the citizens of Croydon.”

Lee Buss, director of operations, Evolve Housing + Support

They strike up a conversation with Deborah Ives, head of operations at homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support, who is leading the team tonight. Elsewhere, a young woman who says she was homeless up until a couple of weeks ago approaches and has a chat with one of the volunteers, Mary Blamires. She is concerned society tends to think all homeless people are alcoholics. “She said: ‘I just wanted to let you know we are not’,” Ms Blamires reports afterwards.

It is all a powerful reminder that when housing professionals talk about the strain and cost that housing problems place on other services, or when homelessness professionals discuss tri-morbidity (the combination of mental and physical ill health and drug or alcohol misuse), this is the back story. To put it another way, if you are looking to find rough sleepers, an A&

For use in Inside Housing, 18 November 2016
A&E department in the middle of the night is a very good place to start.

The group is part of a bigger picture, however. Tonight, Croydon’s streets are covered with a patchwork quilt of volunteers. Their work is the start of the CR Zero 2020 campaign, which is led by Evolve, Crisis, Expert Link, Homeless Link and Thames Reach, to end rough sleeping in the borough. This sprang out of a wider European End Street Homelessness Campaign, which is being developed by the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) and FEANTSA, the European network of organisations working with homeless people.

The Croydon project’s ambition is clear. But what learning has it picked up already? And can it really succeed in eradicating rough sleeping?

Fast forward a few days, and some of the answers start to emerge. Over the course of the week, groups of volunteers speak to street homeless people in Croydon and get them to complete in-depth questionnaires. The aim is to build up the most detailed picture ever of the men and women living on the borough’s streets, which contain the eighth-highest number of people sleeping rough in the UK.

People sleeping rough on our streets is probably the most visible indicator of the profound housing problems we have got in this country that it is my job to try to tackle.

Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon and housing minister

On a Saturday morning, just days after the last group of volunteers reports back, the information contained on the questionnaires has been analysed and the initial findings are to be presented to members of the Croydon community, including constituency MP and housing minister, Gavin Barwell.

The volunteers engaged with 64 homeless people over the course of the week (more than the 53 people recorded in the last street count); 42 of them completed a survey. Straight away, it is obvious the A&E department the volunteers visited earlier in the week has been a familiar destination for many of Croydon’s rough sleepers. In fact, half of the rough sleepers who completed a questionnaire had been in an A&E department in the past six months.

Collectively, there had been 53 attendances to A&E departments in that time, with 19 separate occasions in which people had been taken in by ambulance. There were a further 23 cases in which people had been in hospital as an in-patient.

For use in Inside Housing, 18 November 2016
Filling in a questionnaire

Grim events

The rest of the statistics make pretty grim reading, too. More than half of the respondents said they had been attacked or beaten up while on the streets. Weeks after this meeting, the Croydon Advertiser reported the story of a homeless man who has disappeared after a gang of “laughing thugs” attacked him in a doorway and set his belongings on fire.

And there are hundreds of other statistics, each with their own depressing back stories. Two of the six women who filled out forms were pregnant, 60% of the respondents had not been in permanent or sustainable housing for six months or more and 70% said there were no activities in their life that made them feel happy and fulfilled other than just surviving. Lee Buss, director of operations at Evolve Housing + Support, admits: “I was genuinely shocked by some of the data – really, really shocked. It should be a wakeup call to the citizens of Croydon.”

What of Mr Barwell, who says he has hotfooted it to the morning’s event “from my surgery, dealing with a number of housing issues”?

We are asking the entire community to work together to find a solution to chronic rough sleeping on the streets of Croydon.

Lee Buss, director of operations, Evolve Housing + Support

Croydon’s MP is certainly not shying away from the problem. “People sleeping rough on our streets is probably the most visible indicator of the profound housing problems we have got in this country that it is my job to try to tackle,” he tells the audience. He later adds: “I look forward to hearing what I can do, what the council can do and what the community can do to solve this great moral stain on our times.” He promises to resource any potential new responsibilities placed on councils as a result of the forthcoming Homelessness Reduction Bill.

The members of the Croydon community in attendance are not here to demand solutions from the housing minister, however. Instead, the aim is for local people, charities and businesses to take matters into their own hands.

For use in Inside Housing, 18 November 2016

Collective effort

“We are asking the entire community to work together to find a solution to chronic rough sleeping on the streets of Croydon,” Mr Buss explains. “Now we have the information, we need to do something with it. Croydon has the answers. I don’t mean Croydon the local authority – although they play a vital role. I mean us, everyone in this room.”

The next step is to form a “community solutions” focus group, whereby local people and organisations will work together to develop answers. This could involve asking existing services to work differently or developing new services or methods.

Only a few weeks later, Inside Housing drops in on the initial meeting of the group in a community centre. Members of local homelessness charities and drop-in centres have turned up, alongside local residents and council staff. Mark McPherson, director of strategy, partnership and innovation at Homeless Link and who is chairing, states that the purpose of the group is to “understand why people live on the streets”, “identify the things that stop them getting off the streets” and “find solutions”.

It might be that we don’t get some of those people in the room… But we can come up with an ask for them.”

Mark McPherson, director of strategy, partnership and innovation, Homeless Link

The group begins by working in teams to identify points of contact and sources of help for homeless people in the borough. A chart of faith groups, night shelters and drop-in centres emerges. Over the next few weeks the information will be pulled together into a “systems map”. The next step will be to pinpoint barriers in the system and “who do we have to influence to remove them”.

“It might be that we don’t get some of those people in the room,” Mr McPherson says. “But we can come up with an ask for them.” He reminds the attendees that all solutions have to be “about housing” – “the solutions must mean they are no longer living on the streets”.

It is early days yet, but the mood in the room is optimistic. Rough sleeping might be on the rise nationally, but the group here today are determined they can reverse the trend and, indeed, eradicate it in Croydon by 2020. So far they have attracted more than 100 volunteers, had the ear of the housing minister and collected more detail about the borough’s homeless population than anyone before. They are likely to have plenty of learning to pass on to the housing sector – and do not bet against them achieving the seemingly impossible while they are at it.

Campaign origins

The work in Croydon to end homelessness can trace its roots back to the 100,000 Homes campaign in the USA.

This was a national grassroots movement working to find and permanently house 100,000 of the most vulnerable homeless people in the nation – with communities taking the lead. It won a World Habitat Award, organised by the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), in 2013.

David Ireland, director of the BSHF, says after the award win “there was a real interest in seeing if we could use some of the methods and adapt them into Europe”. This led to the birth of the European End Street Homelessness Campaign, co-ordinated by BSHF. Identical questionnaires have been filled out by homeless people in various cities, such as Barcelona and Valencia, and Croydon is the latest area to launch its own campaign.

Inside Housing | Helping the homeless

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14 November 2016

Helping the homeless

CATHY AT 50 200px TONY STACEY SEPT 2015

A few hours after deciding to write about homelessness in this blog, my friend, Trevor Smith, said this to me: “Homelessness is centre stage in the induction programme I am designing. If new entrants to the housing sector don’t ‘get’ homelessness, they won’t understand what we’re about.”

Trevor runs the support programme for the Centre for Partnership’s GEM (Graduate Employment and Mentoring) Programme. His comment started me thinking about the extent to which homelessness – and finding solutions for it – remains at the heart of what we do or whether, at times, we forget about it in the rush to keep step with the government’s latest housing initiative (I understand that it’s ‘buy as you go’ this week).

I touch base regularly with Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis. Two years ago we were discussing how homelessness was increasing, and that measures such as the overall benefits cap would only make it worse. He said he thought that the pendulum would swing back by 2017. The fantastic work that he and the Crisis team have done to promote the Homelessness Reduction Bill is a strong indicator that he got it right. Two or three years ago the government was so busy weakening the safety net for homeless people it would have been inconceivable that such a measure could have succeeded. Now the bill, which was taken forward by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, has the support of the Communities and Local Government, local authorities and, we hope, parliament. That is an astonishing result.

We also have a housing minister who is bothered about homelessness. He says he is, and I choose to believe him. Recently he stated that “solving our housing crisis is a moral priority”. Homelessness is back on the radar.

There is the fantastic work that David Bogle and the Homes for Cathy group are doing which will be showcased in parliament in February, and which has spawned a myriad of national and regional events. South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) showed the original Cathy Come Home at our local independent cinema last week, and it was followed by a panel debate which included the housing lead on the local council, a homelessness agency and a young woman who had experienced homelessness. Next week we are reprising this as part of a programme for local schools. Then, in a couple of months, the brilliant Cardboard Citizens theatre company (which includes homeless actors) is coming to the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, with an updated version of Cathy. The Homes for Cathy group of associations are also sponsoring Inside Housing’s competition for young filmmakers to produce a ‘Cathy’ for the 21st century.

So what else are associations doing? There are the obvious answers such as increasing housing supply (40% of all new homes last year, for example), working hard to sustain existing tenancies and working closely with local authorities to support their homeless strategies. The two performance indicators I look for first at SYHA are the number of tenants we have evicted and the proportion of new tenants who have been homeless or at risk.

There is another dimension to this – the way in which we work with our tenants as individuals. Every time we intervene to support one of our customers into a training or employment programme, we take them one step further away from homelessness. Every intervention to support someone’s health, well-being and self-esteem does the same. Placeshapers associations do loads of this stuff.  Its We Work programme is a great showcase for the tens of thousands of people who have been supported in this way. Immediate examples at SYHA include our arts programme, Moments of Joy, and our Ageing Better project which tackles loneliness and isolation.

I have tried – and failed – to track the origin of the much-quoted statement that any one of us is only two bad decisions away from homelessness. If we are better connected, better informed and better supported, we will be less likely to make these mistakes.

At the end of every meeting our board assesses the decisions we have just taken against our risk framework. We think about how each decision has affected our risk profile, risk appetite etc. A lot of associations do this. Perhaps we should also be thinking about the impact of our decisions on homelessness in the same way. To what extent are the decisions we take on, for example, new developments, tenure, or sales strategies likely to improve or damage prospects for homelessness locally? Like those GEM graduates, we need to ensure we still ‘get’ it.

Tony Stacey, chief executive, South Yorkshire Housing Association

Crisis | Homelessness Reduction Bill passes crucial Second Reading

Hi Paul,

As a Crisis campaigner, I wanted you to be among the first to know that the Homelessness Reduction Bill has passed its crucial second reading in the House of Commons today. A huge number of MPs turned up to support the Bill and it was passed without opposition.

We’re hugely grateful for all the time and passion that thousands of campaigners like you have put into getting the bill this far. The fact that so many MPs were in the chamber for the debate is a direct result of the emails and meetings that have shown our representatives how passionately we care about ending homelessness.

We’ve got the momentum and the cross-party consensus. But this is no time for complacency. There’s still a lot of work needed to get this bill through parliament and to make sure any new law really works for homeless people. So we’ll need your help again. 

But right now we can feel proud that, against the odds, we’re a big step closer to stopping homeless people getting turned away when they ask for help.

Have a good weekend,

Alex
Campaigns Manager

PS. We’re not going to ask you to do any more campaigning right now, but if you’re feeling inspired to do more for homeless people you can donate to our life-changing services and campaigning.

Crisis Impact Report: Homelessness ends here

Crisis | The Second Reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill: What’s all the fuss about?

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27 October 2016

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The Second Reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill: What’s all the fuss about?

by Helena Brice,  Public Affairs Officer

You may have noticed over the past couple of months that we here at Crisis have been getting increasingly excited about the ‘Second Reading’ of the Homelessness Reduction Bill on 28 October but you may not know why.

It involves some rather arcane parliamentary processes, but could have a huge impact on homelessness in England. So here’s an explainer:

What’s the problem?

In England if you don’t have dependent children or you can’t prove that you are particularly vulnerable then your local authority has no legal obligation to offer you meaningful help.

Just imagine. You’ve lost your home. You’ve worn out the welcome on the sofas of family or friends so, in desperation, you go to your council for help. You tell them that tonight you will literally be sleeping on a park bench if you don’t get help. But even then you are turned away, sent back out the door to sleep on the streets, cold, lonely and forgotten.

What does the Homelessness Reduction Bill do about that?

If passed, it will give councils a legal duty to give people meaningful support to resolve their homelessness. It will introduce measures to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. If it survives its passage through parliament it will undoubtedly be one of the most important developments for homelessness in 40 years.

You say ‘if passed’… does that mean it could fail?

Yes. This Friday 28 October the fate of the Homelessness Reduction Bill hangs in the balance. It is a Private Member’s Bill which was brought forwards by MP Bob Blackman. As such it can be easily blocked or ‘talked out’ as it receives its Second Reading in Parliament this Friday.

(We’ve seen this happen recently with the Turing Bill and the Revenge Evictions Bill, both of which were Private Members’ Bills that were talked out)

…so we find out if the bill lives or dies at this Second Reading you keep tweeting about?

For now. The Second Reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill. In order for a Bill to get past Second Reading the sponsor of the bill, in this case Bob Blackman, must secure the closure of the debate (which basically means getting MPs to stop talking).

For a closure motion to succeed in favour of the bill there must be at least 100 supportive MPs present. If there were 98 who supported and 2 who opposed, the Bill would fail. Hence we have been asking you to email your MPs asking them to turn up and support it. (and a huge thank you to the thousands of you that have done so).

However if no one opposes the bill the Chair puts the question on second reading (that is that people agree the bill passes its second reading), collects the ‘voices’ (essentially how many people say ‘Ayes’ and how many say ‘No’) and if it’s too close to call they call a division. For a division to pass in our favour the ‘Aye’ must be in the majority with more than 40 Members participating.

What if the bill fails?

We will have missed a precious opportunity to change the homelessness legislation and will be relying on the government’s good will to take it on and bring it forward as their own bill. In order for this to happen the government would have to announce it in the Queen’s speech (which didn’t happen this year round) or tag it on to another Bill, however no Bills have yet been put forward that it could be tagged on to.

And if it gets through?

If the bill gets through the Second Reading that is a massive hurdle overcome. But there is still a long way to go before it gets enshrined in the law. The bill then has to go through public bill committee, report stage, third reading and then the Lords.

Is there anything I can do to help?

Yes. Visit our No One Turned Away campaign page to find out how you can join the thousands of campaigners who have helped us to get the Homelessness Reduction Bill this far.

Private Eye | The Homelessness Reduction Bill

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No.1430 | 28 Oct – 10 Nov 2016

Campaigners are cautiously optimistic that a Private Member’s Bill to improve the safety net for homeless people will pass its first Parliamentary hurdle on Friday [28 October 2016].

The Homelessness Reduction Bill, put forward by Conservative MP Bob Blackman with the support of the all-party Communities and Local Government Committee and the homelessness charity Crisis, is modelled on legislation already introduced in Wales.

It would  introduce new duties to prevent and relieve homelessness, in particular by helping single homeless people currently being turned away by councils because they are not in ‘priority need”.

Two immediate tests confront the Bill when it comes to a Second Reading.

First,more than 100 MPs must turn up and vote on a Friday to prevent individual members from talking it out. That effort got a boost when Jeremy Corbyn wrote to his Labour MPs encouraging them to attend.

Second, only backing from the Government can secure enough Parliamentary time to eventually bring the Bill into law. So far, Ministers have made positive noises, but no commitments.

The larger question, though, is whether homelessness will keep rising faster than any legislation can prevent it. Demand for housing is increasing rents even as cuts to Housing Benefit reduce the ability to pay them. More cuts are still in the pipeline, starting with a reduction in the Overall Benefit Cap from 06 November. This will leave tenants in expensive areas and in larger homes across the country with worsening rent shortfalls to be paid from benefits that are frozen until 2020.

Although the homelessness prevention legislation in Wales seems to be working well, that is in the context of a very different attitude to genuinely affordable housing. Whereas Wales is still building social housing and is about to abolish Right to Buy, England stopped funding it in 2010, increased Right to Buy discounts and is about to force councils to sell their higher-value homes as they fall vacant.

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Priority Pass | Scene & Heard by David Ziggy Greene [Private Eye No.1430]

 

Crisis | Government backs the Homelessness Reduction Bill, but we’re not over the finishing line yet

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Government backs the Homelessness Reduction Bill, but we’re not over the finishing line yet

by Bob Blackman MP

Today marks a huge step forward for my Private Member’s Bill – due to be debated this Friday 28 October – with the government announcing its support for the bill. The Homelessness Reduction Bill offers a very real opportunity to offer meaningful support to people shut out of the current system and to place a new duty on councils to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.

Even with government backing, there’s no guarantee that the bill will be carried on Friday and it’s absolutely vital that at least 100 MPs turn up to the debate and vote in favour of the bill to carry it through this first hurdle.

Parliamentary business can be a thorny and difficult process to navigate. This is especially the case when it comes to Private Members’ Bills, as they’re allocated very little time and debates are always scheduled on a Friday when most MPs are away from Westminster in order to spend time working in their constituencies. The odds are stacked against them ever making it past their first debate and, as we saw just last week with the failure John Nicolson MP’s ‘Turing Bill’ to pass, you can never be sure of what will happen.

I would argue that the Homelessness Reduction Bill is somewhat unique as Private Member’s Bills go. As a member of the cross-party Communities and Local Government Select Committee, I took the opportunity to utilise the committee’s recent report on homelessness and to tie that into the creation of my bill. Clive Betts, the Chair, also kindly agreed to have the committee conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill and I revised the original draft of the bill in response to the committee’s recommendations. There are no direct precedents for this.

Now that the bill has been given government backing, I’m hugely grateful to the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, and the Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones, in particular, for seizing this historic opportunity to tackle homelessness. This is obviously very helpful in terms of getting this legislation onto the books, but it’s important to say that it’s not just about getting Government support. I want to ensure that Members from all sides of the House back this bill and I’ll be spending the next few days rallying more MPs to commit to voting in favour on Friday.

So to colleagues who may be reading this, now is the time to make your commitment to helping those faced with homelessness clear. If you’re a constituent, it’s not too late to contact your MP to let them know that their vote on Friday could still make the difference between this bill succeeding or failing.

This is a once in a generation opportunity to radically improve the way we tackle homelessness in England and there is no room for complacency.

Crisis | Government will support Homelessness Reduction Bill

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This afternoon, Secretary of State Sajid Javid confirmed that the Government will support the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

As you will know, the bill aims to end the injustice of homeless people being turned away with little or no help by their local council because they are not considered a “priority” under the law.

This is great news. But because it’s a “Private Member’s Bill”, not government legislation, the Bill remains very vulnerable. Unless at least 100 MPs turn up to back the bill then just one opponent can block it and we could miss this historic opportunity for change.

This follows years of campaigning by tens of thousands of people like you – but now it’s vital we keep up the momentum and don’t get complacent.  

I know you have already contacted your MP but can you help us share the news – and ask your friends to make sure that their MP attends the debate?

Thanks,

Alex
Campaigns Manager

PS If you don’t use social media, please forward this email to 5 friends with a note explaining why you think they should back the bill

 

Crisis | Homelessness Reduction Bill

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No One Turned Away is calling for every homeless person who approaches their council to get the help they need.

Homeless people in England can be turned away with little or no help by councils if they are not considered a ‘priority’, even though they have nowhere else to stay.

Now Conservative MP Bob Blackman has tabled a Homelessness Reduction Bill to improve the support that homeless people receive. But we need the support of MPs for this to become law.

We urgently need your help to take part in a mass lobby of MPs in Westminster on Wednesday 19 October. It’s a chance to ask your MP in person to back the bill. Sign up to attend.

Even if you can’t attend the mass lobby, you can still ask your MP to take action.

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Ask your MP to be there

Your MP has not said they’ll be there, so below is a message for you to send that asks them to attend.

Dear Ben Bradshaw

I am writing as a constituent and a Crisis campaigner to ask you to attend the second reading debate for the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which is taking place on the morning of 28 October.

A draft version of the bill has now been published, many of the measures it contains are Labour Party policy.

This private member’s bill is sponsored by Bob Blackman and supported by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, who are scrutinising the draft. The select committee has recently published a major report on homelessness.

Currently, many homeless people are not considered a “priority” under the law, meaning that they are often turned away with little or no help when they approach their local council. As well as the devastating personal impact that this can have, failing to intervene early to prevent and solve homelessness is a poor use of public resources.

Scotland and Wales have already reformed their homelessness legislation, so this is a vital chance for England to catch up. The measures in the bill will have a firm foundation in the lessons from other parts of Britain and in the findings of a panel of experts with backgrounds in local government, charities, academia and housing law, who have recommended reforms (www.crisis.org.uk/expertpanelreport).

Yours sincerely

Paul Bull

Further reading:
Crisis: No One Turned Away 

Crisis: No One Turned Away – Executive Summary

Labour Press | “Osborne must use the Budget to turn round spiralling homelessness figures”

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13 March 2016

Labour warn Osborne must use the Budget to turn round spiralling homelessness figures

Ahead of the Budget on Wednesday Labour has released new figures showing that on current trends the number of homeless families is set to reach almost 400,000 by 2020.

Headline ‘statutory homelessness’ statistics only capture those people who fall into a small number of so-called ‘priority need’ groups containing the most vulnerable applicants like pregnant women and young people leaving care. Along with charities and academics, Labour has argued that a much better measure also includes ‘prevention and relief’ cases where councils step in to stop families becoming homeless.

This more comprehensive measure reveals that homelessness rose to 275,000 families last year, up 75,000 from 2010, and is set to hit 369,000 by 2020 on current trends.

This is in addition to rough sleeping figures which records people sleeping on the streets and has doubled in the last five years.

This rise can be traced directly to decisions taken by George Osborne in previous Budgets which have led to big cuts in housing support over the last five years, including:

·         cuts to housing benefit support worth over £5bn since 2010 – 13 separate cuts to housing benefit over the last five years, including the bedroom tax and breaking the link between private rented sector housing benefit and private rents;

·         cuts to ‘supporting people’ funding for homelessness services – the National Audit Office have revealed that vital funding for homelessness services fell by 45 per cent between 2010 and 2015;

·         soaring private rents – averaging over £1600 extra each year than in 2010; and

·         the loss of affordable homes – with over 100,000 fewer council homes than in 2010.

Without a change of direction from George Osborne, cuts in this Parliament are set to hit housing services and support on an even bigger scale:

·         the further impact of cuts to housing benefit is set to total almost £11bn between 2015 and 2020, plus a new cap on housing benefit announced in the Autumn Statement which homelessness organisations say will lead to the mass closure of their services;

·         further cuts to local authority support meaning homelessness services unable to cope – the IFS calculate further real terms cuts of around 7 per cent to council budgets over the next five years;

·         private rent rises are set to continue with Savills predict an inflation-busting 16.5 per cent increase in average rents over the next five years; and

·         A further loss of 300,000 social rented homes predicted over the next five years.

Commenting, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning John Healey MP said:

“Rising homeless figures carry the starkest warning for the Chancellor ahead of the Budget.

“This spiralling scale of homelessness shames us all when Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. It is a test of our basic humanity. It should shake the Chancellor from his complacency about the growing homeless crisis and shock him into action.

“The homeless figures hide personal stories of hurt and hopelessness; thousands of people whose ordinary lives have fallen apart from illness, debt, family break-up, addiction or redundancy.

“His failure to control housing costs and crude cuts to housing support over the last five years are making the problem much worse. The Government have no long-term housing plan for the country.

“George Osborne must use the Budget this week to stop the upward spiral of homelessness which is being driven by the government’s own housing policy failures.

“He must now re-think the multi-billion pound cuts to housing and homelessness support which are set to bite during this Parliament, as well as strengthening the law to help prevent homelessness happening in the first place as Labour has done in Wales.”

ENDS

Notes

·         The wider measure of homelessness used here – including homelessness ‘prevention and relief’ cases as well as ‘statutory homeless’ acceptances – was developed and is used by leading housing academics in the annual ‘Homelessness Monitor’ commissioned by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation :http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness_Monitor_England_2016_FINAL_(V12).pdf.

·         Between 2009/10 and 2014/15 the average annual increase in this wider measure of homelessness was 6%. If the rate of increase in the last five years continued over the next five years this would mean 369,124 homelessness cases by 2019/20.

Source: DCLG statutory homelessness and homelessness prevention and relief statistics: 2009/10 – 2014/15. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness

·         In addition, the latest rough sleeping figures collected in Autumn 2015 show that the number of people sleeping on England’s streets has doubled since 2010 with 3,659 people recorded sleeping rough on one night: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2015.

·         Figures on housing benefit cuts for the last Parliament, and planned over the next were supplied by the House of Commons Library.

·         The National Audit Office have revealed that cuts to supporting people funding for homelessness services averaged 455.3% between 2010/11 and 2014/15:https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Impact-of-funding-reductions-on-local-authorities.pdf.

·         Average private market rents were £1,608 a year more expensive in January 2016 than at the same point in 2010, according the LSL rental index:http://www.lslps.co.uk/documents/buy_to_let_index_feb16.pdf.

·         There were 117,000 fewer council homes in England in 2014 than in 2010:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/423176/LT_104.xls

·         IFS figures suggest cuts to local authority budgets of around 7% over the next five years:http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8095.

·         Savills have predicted UK-wide increase in rents of 16.5% over the next five years:http://www.savills.co.uk/research/uk/residential-research/forecast-pages/mainstream-rental-values.aspx

·         The Chartered Institute of Housing have said that as many as 300,000 homes for social rent could be lost over the next five years: http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/housing-boss-says-england-could-lose-300000-socially-rented-homes-by-2020-11364045175253

·         More information on the measure the Welsh Government have taken on homelessness are available here: http://gov.wales/topics/housing-and-regeneration/legislation/housing-act/specific-elements/homelessness/?lang=en.

 

Crisis | First homelessness inquiry in a decade

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First homelessness inquiry in a decade

Last week the Communities and Local Government Select Committee announced that they would be holding an inquiry into homelessness, something Crisis has been lobbying for to take place. This is a very welcome announcement and one of a number made last week which shone the spotlight on homelessness.

This will be a very timely inquiry – it is the first time in 10 years that the committee have looked at homelessness.

The committee last looked at homelessness in 2005. Their report made a number of key recommendations including:

  • A review of priority need categories and a cost-benefit analysis of removing vulnerability criteria
  • Stronger guidance and minimum expected standards of help for non-priority need homeless people
  • Additional funding for local authority homelessness prevention work.

Why does it matter?

Since the last inquiry, a lot has changed in the homelessness landscape.

  1. After years of declining trends and since the last inquiry, all forms of homelessness have risen and independent research carried out for Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that homelessness is likely to increase further still.
  2. Homelessness policy has changed in England, including reforms allowing local councils to discharge homeless households in the private rented sector. The loss of a private rented tenancy is now the leading cause of homelessness.
  3. The Scottish and Welsh devolved governments now have new legislative frameworks in place with significant difference from the law in England. It is therefore an appropriate time to reconsider the effectiveness of English legislation and scrutinise the actions of councils in England.

All of these are developments that deserve further scrutiny.

This new inquiry is particularly important as the Department for Communities and Local Government (the department which the committee scrutinise the work of) announced last week that the government would consider new legislation to prevent more people from becoming homeless, something Crisis has long campaigned for since the launch of our  No One Turned Away campaign. This means that the committee has a real chance to influence the government’s thinking on what needs to be done.

The committee are accepting evidence until 8th February, we at Crisis will be submitting a response laying out our views on how the homelessness legislation could be improved to better support single homeless people. We would encourage anyone with new ideas on ending homelessness to do so as well.